My goal with this post is to give my opinion on the problems I currently see in WoW and some possible solutions I think may work well. I want the next expansion to reinvigorate me and I want to have a discussion about how we can get there.
I will do my best to categorize and organize this post effectively to make it more readable or allow you to skip to particular sections that interest you. Prepare for a wall of text.
I am sure I am not alone here when I say that questing has become burdensome and boring. We have had vanilla WoW plus 4 expansions worth of quests and I feel the approach to both leveling via quests as well as farming via quests (dailies, etc.) has stagnated. Every quest is predictable in it's requests. Go here and pick up 10 axes, kill 15 of these boars, collect 10 berries, kill "X" big mob, rinse and repeat. While some things such as quest phasing and legendary quest chains have changed things up a bit, they are "neat" as opposed to unique or sweeping features that change the overall experience. I realize this is a core theme of every MMO, but I feel like it doesn't have to be done in such a generic or cookie cutter way.
For the next expansion, my idea for altering the questing system itself would be to thoroughly entangle the lore of the expansion into the leveling and farming experience via quests. We have gotten some taste of this in past expansions for sure, however, I feel like dramatically reducing the quantity of quests needed to level, while making the quests you do complete have a major impact on your characters progression, provide you with necessary leveling gear, and deeply involve you in the story, would be much more fun. By this, I mean that instead of say doing 400 quests to get from 85-90, you instead do 40. But these 40 quests are arduous, they entrench you with the core storyline of the expansion, they provide you with awesome and necessary rewards along the way, and they overall just feel epic. Killing 10 rabbits for some random farmer doesn't feel good. You could still have random side quests and things of that sort or perhaps options to choose which way you experience the core story line through quests without losing that sense of urgency, immersion, and overall character progression.
Some of my favorite quests out of all of my time with WoW were the Arthas Wotlk storyline quests in Northrend. You felt like you were working towards beating this dude who was out to wreck the world and seeing and experiencing his story along your travels kept you entertained and also made you aspire to get into raiding and eventually down this guy. Take this concept even further with some of the suggestions I stated above and I feel like the questing experience as a whole will be greatly improved and far more enjoyable.
Just to clarify, the 40 quests you are doing in this hypothetical expansion could take as long to complete as the 400 quests we are used to handling during the leveling process. It isn't really about the overall time investment so much as it is about enjoying that required time investment rather than simply looking forward to it being over.
As a side note, I also think something should be done about the bloated leveling process. Now while it doesn't take someone like me very long to level a new character because of full heirloom sets, friends running me through dungeon content, and an overall knowledge of the game that allows me to know exactly what to do and when to do it for maximum efficiency, this does not apply to newer players. With this many levels to burn through and all of these story lines from past expansions, the game really feels like it needs a pruning so to speak. Trim the fat, streamline the story for newer players, reduce the quantity of quests required to level through old zones, etc.
This is an area I feel Blizzard has alot of work to do. Professions have been seemingly neglected since vanilla. They offer some stat buffs and the ability to craft filler gear for your characters. That is about all of the positives of the current interation of professions. The level cap for professions is currently 600 and is only going to grow which makes it a massive task to level a new profession from scratch. Even if you are willing to drop the 4000 to 5000 gold needed to purchase what you need off the auction house, it will still take you a good several hours of button clicking to complete the process. If you can't afford the mats or are trying to level a profession strictly with self found items, you are in for a grueling task that has little reward in the end. This system has some of the same bloat as many others in the game and needs a good retuning. Perhaps make low level crafting plans that can generate multiple points per craft or tie in some of the leveling process with questing to kill two birds with one stone. Aside from bloat, professions feel lackluster at the moment. There really should be more interesting ways to utilize your professions, particularly in relation to max level content. There needs to be some significant defining factor in being a blacksmith over a tailor other than that you get a bonus socket as opposed to a cloak enchant.
Secondary professions are in an even worse state currently in that they don't even grant bonuses like the primary professions. They are very one dimensional in that they do very little for your character, can take huge amounts of time investment to level, and are even outshined as a means of making profit by things like potion of luck farming or transmog farming. I am trying to convince myself to level fishing currently on my mage, but I just don't see a reason.
This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while and is particularly bad in MoP. There are just way to many coins, tokens, and point systems in the game. We have justice points, valor points, honor points, conquest points, ironpaw tokens, elder charms, lesser charms, timeless coins, warforged seals, and mogu runes of fate along with other relic currencies from the past. With the current game, many of these currencies don't even receive any use or were not properly tended to by the game's mechanics. Justice points are ridiculously niche, are annoying to acquire, and in the current patch, don't even offer gear worth getting. Even if you are massively undergeared, justice points would be the last thing I would look toward to gear up. Honestly, the AH is more effective. Elder charms grant you bonus loot roles, but only on early MoP content, which is so quickly outgeared, it's not even worth taking the time to collect these anymore. Even systems like valor points that offer decent enough loot to be considered, feel convoluted when mashed with all the other options available. I don't need to go down the entire list, but I would like to see this system streamlined down to a few simple currencies that are gained in easily identifiable ways with a specific goal in mind that doesn't cross over with 10 other options. The game as it is currently feels bogged down with so many ways to get the same loot, most of which end up being completely ignored.
Reputation suffers from some of the same problems as the currency systems I mentioned above. There are tons of different reputations, they are boring to grind, they offer little in terms of reward, and the rewards they do offer you can often be gained by other, much simpler means. In vanilla WoW, grinding Cenarion Circle rep would eventually grant you access to an amazing item that you would probably use through most of your AQ adventures. The grind was tied in with lore, you felt the progression of it, it rewarded you heavily at the end, and there was no way to just bypass the grind and grab an equally amazing trinket in a few mins of work on the timeless isle or in raid finder. I want to see clearly defined, easily understandable, and thoroughly rewarding systems in WoW. Make them challenging, but make the journey clear and remove the clutter of constantly evolving side options for gearing up.
Lore / Story
This category is probably more subjective than any of the others, however I sincerely feel that Cataclysm was a step down in terms of lore and story immersion and MoP fell completely off the wagon. This isn't to say that the lore is non-existent or that Blizzard just threw some stuff together, but I don't feel entralled by the story behind MoP. We have come to appreciate the characters in the Warcraft lore and they have become iconic. I want more of that in my expansions for the future and less of the semi-random, sorta silly stuff we got with MoP. From a story and lore perspective, I think Vanilla through Wrath really set the tone for what I would like to see more of going forward. A good story needs a good villain and MoP doesn't do it for me.
I miss the days when dungeons were a serious challenge. Heroic mode dungeons were a flat out pain in the ass, but that was half the fun. It was almost like 5 man raids in that you got solid, useful loot that you needed to progress and a taste of real difficulty in both mob and boss encounters. I want the loot progression paradigm to shift back to dungeons before raiding instead of dungeons if you feel like it for some semi-useless gear that could be better gotten in a face roll raid finder run or from the timeless isle. Currently, dungeons are in a terrible place seeing as how they don't really fill a particularly need in the game's gear progression scheme and offer little in the way of challenge. Bring back the challenge and correlate that with rewards while simultaneously removing all the ridiculous ways you can fall upon loot and I will be a happy camper.
Firstly, I want to discuss the actual systems currently in place for raiding content. As of now, we have Raid Finder (lowest difficulty), Flex Raiding (low-mid difficulty), Normal (standard difficulty), and Heroic (highest difficulty). Just typing all of that out made me a bit sad. There is so much wrong with all these various tiers of "raiding" content that it is hard to nail down concisely, but let's try.
Raid finder is really the most blatant offender of the lot in my opinion. Why is this? Well, it encourages all of the wrong behaviors in players. Are you a new, inexperienced or just all around bad player? You can have some epic loot and down all the cool bosses anyway. Do you not want to coordinate with a group, develop your raid team or join a guild? That's ok. Do you like to troll, go afk, or auto attack the boss while watching a movie in the background? Fine with us.
All of these behaviors would be looked down upon by just about every player you come across, however, they are being actively encouraged by the raid finder system. The MMO genre is all about being social and cooperative but raid finder tells the player the exact opposite. Games are suppose to have challenges that require effort to overcome. Raid finder is a broken vending machine tossing out bags of doritos for free. Players are suppose to want to grow and improve and learn more about the game. Raid finder says don't worry about that, you can just stay where you are. The list goes on, but I think I have made my point.
Besides this, Raid Finder adds another tier of content bloat that has to be managed by players. I realize Blizzard has stated that their intended focus for this raid tier is to have only casuals that can't do higher tiers focus on this content. This is simply not the case. When you add another means to the game that allows players to obtain decent loot, very quickly and easily, and which will help them gear up more effectively for harder content, you had better believe it is going to get play from the large majority of the player base. Players are simply required to have LFR quality gear before joining a normal or heroic raiding guild now. What if you are working on progression in your current guild? Maybe you need a better trinket? You will be running LFR every week in hopes that you get that trinket upgrade. There is no way around this. Even if you were to have weekly shared lockouts across multiple raid tiers, you would still see this large base of non-target audience players utilizing raid finder. This adds a ton more repetition and dries out content far more quickly for players than in the past. Also, it tends to ruin the experience of encountering that epic boss for the first time in normal mode, when you have cleared him multiple times in raid finder.
Lastly, and most importantly in my opinion, is the idea of exclusivity of content. The reason a boss kill feels so amazing is because it took time and effort to achieve it. The reason the story feels epic is because the all powerful villains you encounter are a giant pain in the ass. It takes time, effort, dedication, and coordination to take them down. Raid finder has none of this. You are given the story and the villains served up to you on a silver platter, where all you have to do is show up to get fed. This not only kills the experience for the player involved, it also ruins the community as a whole in that everyone loses a bit of that sense of ambition and wonder as to what it would be like to fight this crazy boss you have heard so much about. I miss seeing that one guy in Orgrimmar that has those iconic Dreadnaught Shoulders from classic Naxx and going "Dam. I need to get there." This type of atmosphere is good for everyone, not just hardcore raiders and we have lost that in the last few expansions.
I have covered my opinion on raid finder but now I want to take a bit to address some of the common responses in favor of keeping raid finder in the game.
1st. I pay the same $15 a month as everyone else and should be able to see all the content.
No. This is not even a little correct. Purchasing a game or paying the montly fee is for ACCESS to the game. It does not give you the right to experience all the game has to offer. It gives you the right to TRY and experience all the game has to offer. You wouldn't buy a board game and say "Now I have the right to always win."
2nd. I don't have time to do normal raiding or join a guild - I need LFR.
I hate this excuse with a passion. I have been everything from a hardcore raider to a casual player in my WoW career. At certain points I was either in school or working to much to be able to raid full time or commit to a progression guild. Guess what I did? I found a guild with people who's schedules fit mine. If you work nights, there are guilds that raid mid day. If you work 80 hours a week and can only raid for 2 - 3 hours on a Saturday, find a guild that raids for 2 - 3 hours on Saturday. It is really simple. Believe me, there are guilds for every type of player out there. I found a guild that fit my schedule and my current playstyle every time I looked. The solution to casual players isn't to give them free content, it's the good ol' guild system. It has been working since Vanilla. WoW had nearly 11 million subscribers at one point and guess what? There was no raid finder. Were all 11 million subscribers hardcore raiders? I think not. There were millions of casuals back then and they all got along just fine. That is the entire purpose of guilds. Congregate people with similar interests.
3rd. It doesn't effect you so just let us do our content and you do yours.
I have already covered this point above. This is an MMO. Everything we are involved in effects other people. The negative effects permeate the community at large.
Moving past raid finder, you have the newly implemented flex raiding. Now this content is much more akin to real raiding then LFR and is a cool concept in that you can have oddball numbers of friends between 10 and 25 come and complete content together. The only issue with this is again the bloat problem. We have yet another level or tier of content that needs completing. I don't like all this separation of tiers with the exact same content. Normal and heroic mode seem like plenty of content and repetition. I can see some of the point behind flex, but I am not entirely sure the trade off is worth it in the end.
Thanks for taking the time to read through this post and let me know what you think about the current iteration of the game and where you would like to see the next expansion take us.